The old "happiness is only real when shared"...Often finding myself in blissful solitude, I don't fully subscribe to this idea. However, there are some experiences I'd like to retroactively share.
April 2015: I was informed of the opportunity of a lifetime. it was the collision of this and the documentary film 180 Degrees South that convinced me that I was insatiably restless for... something. With a copy of Wild by Sheryl Strayed shoved into my backpack, I temporarily dropped out of classes at UCSB. Without a beat of hesitation, I made arrangements to live and work onsite at Earthship Patagonia in southern Argentina. My heart was beating out of my chest the entirety of my commute halfway across the world: I was living my dream.
April 2018: Significantly matured, but in the same way restless. I have a few jobs, a college degree, and a little money saved. I take a road trip from San Francisco to Humboldt, and Napa CA. My close friend Cara and I joked as we hopped into a rental car at the San Francisco airport that we are “adults on adult vacation.” We made that saying our mantra, yet we were wide-eyed as children on a city-sized playground.
Some questions were on my mind: What's the difference between travel and vacation? How do you turn a vacation into an opportunity for growth?
For me, travel is pushing horizons past your comfort zone. This might come in the form of trying to reach remote spots, getting into the same rhythm as the local lifestyle, or simply exploring off the heavily trodden track. When traveling, I try to tap into the essence of a place without it being handed to me on an instagramable platter. Traveling is messy and cannot be tied up into a neat bow at the end of a trip. Ideally, traveling wouldn't have to end or simply punctuate a stationary lifestyle. I was determined to make this trip more than a vacation.
Before I visited, San Francisco held a lot of weight in my mind. I have a fascination with the beat generation and yearn to be a queen of counterculture. However, to be honest with myself, I’ve tamed myself quite a bit since the time of the Crowning of the Philosopher King. Spending the first legal 4/20 in the heart of Haight Ashbury was hectic and seeing Fleet Foxes at the Greek theater in Berkeley was no Woodstock (though I must say, they are an astounding live act!).
There was still a part of myself that wanted to be an honorary beatnik for a day. I woke up early at the crack of dawn to write furiously in my journal, and later met up with an old friend so I spent a moment at the Beat Museum and City Lights bookstore. To spare you all a history lesson, I’ll just say that the highlights included Jack Kerouac’s jacket, Allen Ginsberg’s organ, and an excellent collection of beat literature at the place where my favorite poetry collection was published in 1956. Howl has been a literary companion of mine for years.
Because of my aversion to crowded and concrete clad cities, my exploration of San Francisco didn’t go far beyond the reaches of my beat poetry dream. As we headed North toward the redwood groves, I could hear Lou Reed’s voice echoing: “remember it’s a flower made out of clay.”
The green was overwhelming. The dense populations of unfurling ferns and majesty of the old growth redwoods felt immensely familiar, despite this being my first encounter. Upon arriving, my friends who are attending their last year at Humboldt State university whisked me away to College Cove in Trinidad: a beach whose image will forever be burned into my psyche. Tall cans of Olympia beer, clear skies, and a big open beach lined with greenery and even a small waterfall. In good company and an abundance of wild beauty, I found myself not quite reaching for my camera to document the entire experience. I was fully present, sincerely savoring every second of this time and place.
For lack of images, here is a bit of stream-of-consciousness writing...
-Reading the scrawl on the walls of the HSU art department bathroom stalls: un-filtration. Sunset, cold sand, flies, sea lion, rocky little redwood island, static lo-fi radio waves, green. Chain me to a redwood trunk or drag me away kicking and screaming. Air so clean, it hurts to imagine a dry place. Green fulfilling a need or providing a distraction from the cherry blossom petals falling into my hair. Back door open, coffee high, legs aching, a natural flow. Given the chance, I’d happily return. Camera-less in the moment yet an urgency to capture the world behind my eyelids, this concept isn’t new. I don’t know my timeline, nor Earth’s. Impermanence. Ink smudging with the glide of my wrist, unsmothered. Starving hysterical & naked souls are unsettled, truly living.
Unfiltered words and overgrown plants.
In a world ripe with natural metaphors, it’s only natural to grasp for meaning in any ecosystem. From my time in Argentina I remember: the sweetest wildberry stains are left on the hands of those who are willing to reach deep into the thorny branches. On our last day in Humboldt, I hiked back to that beach alone. This time, I had my camera.
To close this Strange Cacti entry, I leave you with a meditation on redwoods. I cut this out of a book I found in a freebox in Isla Vista in 2015. I wish I could cite the author~
Redwoods have many effects on those who look up to them. Some men calculate how many tabletops, houses and fence posts a single tree would produce. But we were there to appreciate, not calculate the usual adjectives one uses to describe anything that big become puny. How does one describe the tallest living thing? How can one comprehend something so huge growing from a seed only slightly larger than the head of a pin? How can one describe that silence that permeates a redwood grove? when it is much more than the absence of sound; when it is a silence that reduces conversation to a respectful whisper used during religious ceremonies? For visiting a redwood grove and looking and savoring what you see and hear can be akin to a religious peace of mind. There is another factor we consider while standing beside the river and watch the slow water drift past the redwoods: Man is the only creature that is apparently capable of enjoying them aesthetically and emotionally, and the only creature that destroys them.
Wild Berries playlist: bit.ly/WildWildBerries
On Another Ocean - Fleet Foxes, Ocean Scope - Half Waif, The Sunflower Sutra - Allen Ginsberg, Ride Into the Sun - Lou Reed, Melting Grid - Julie Byrne, Paresthesia - Wild Ones, Walkabout - Atlas Sound, Clay Pigeons - Blaze Foley, I Don't Want To Go - Dimboi, like a feather or a pawprint - Field Medic, Blackberry Song - Kurt Vile, Ringing Bells - Adrianne Lenker.